A Swansea wedding venue has attracted ire after advertising for more staff by sending out a tweet with a photo of slightly askew cutlery, saying, “Slightly OCD? Then we’d like to hear from you.”
Saying “I’m a little bit OCD” because you prefer it when your books are in alphabetical order, or you feel a bit uncomfortable if your kitchen isn’t clean, is something people have been doing for years. However, our understanding of, and knowledge about, mental health has come on massively recently and it’s really time we learnt that it’s not OK. OCD is not a “quirk” and it doesn’t just mean that you like your desk to be organised – it’s a serious disorder that can ruin lives.
Bryony Gordon has spoken openly about how her OCD left her terrified as a child that she had AIDS and would infect her whole family, and how, as a pregnant adult, she became obsessed with the idea that she had slept with a male friend and forgotten about it. Comedian Jon Richardson has spoken about how his OCD tendencies ruled his life for years, including an anecdote about becoming frustrated and enraged because he couldn’t sit on a sofa as there were two cushions on it and he couldn’t sit equally between them. Other sufferers have spoken about being overwhelmed by feelings that they’d abused children and couldn’t remember doing so, or that they’d murdered someone and hidden the body, or that their families will die, or that their house will burn down, or a million other horrible things that plant themselves front and centre in their minds and refuse to go away even when logic and rationality proves them wrong.
To cope with these intrusive thoughts, people may develop compulsions, such as repeatedly checking doors are locked, tapping things a certain number of times or repeating certain words over and over again. You know that sinking feeling you get when you realise you left your hair straighteners on? Imagine having that feeling over and over again, no matter how many times you check it, no matter how many times you see that everything is OK, but being compelled to keep checking again and again and again anyway. Then imagine, instead of leaving your straighteners on, you’re worried about having killed someone. You’re maybe getting close to what someone with OCD goes through each and every day.
OCD isn’t a joke and describing yourself or others as “a little bit OCD” trivialises it and contributes to a society-wide ignorance about how severe it really is
OCD may well stop sufferers from leading full lives, either because their compulsions take up so much of their time or because they avoid situations that will trigger intrusive thoughts. People often feel ashamed and anxious, or try to hide their OCD and intrusive thoughts, and this impacts on their relationships. The stress of it can take a physical toll on their bodies. Recent studies have even suggested that someone with OCD is 10 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, because their symptoms and compulsions are making life unbearable. But at least their cutlery is straight, right? Right, Fairyhill Hotel?
I’m sure that, when the hotel in question designed this advert, they didn’t intend to cause any harm – they probably thought they were making a lighthearted joke. But OCD isn’t a joke and describing yourself or others as “a little bit OCD” trivialises it and contributes to a society-wide ignorance about how severe it really is. The people who live with OCD deserve our respect, compassion and help, not to be made the butt of fairly lame jokes about tidiness. As a society, we are getting so much better at understanding mental-health issues such as anxiety and depression, and it’s time we do the same with OCD. We can start by recognising how offhand phrases can dwarf a person’s very real struggle – and that society’s overall perception of mental health is far more important than a pretty place setting at a wedding.